Houston and Dallas dump on each other all the time, but this is pretty hard to swallow: water from their toilets ends up in our drinking glasses. Here’s how it works. Every time a toilet flushes or you run the tap up north, that water goes down the drain, to a waste water treatment plant. There, it’s supposedly purified for 12 hours, then recycled into Lake Livingston to start a 250 mile journey downstream to Houston. It does mix with rainwater and runoff (though not much during a drought), but ultimately, it becomes our water supply.
Houston is the fourth-largest U.S. city. It gets its water from sources such as the Trinity River, the San Jacinto Rivers and Lake Houston. Texas conducted 22,083 water quality tests between 2004 and 2007 on Houston’s water supply, and found 18 chemicals that exceeded federal and state health guidelines, compared to the national average of four. Three chemicals exceeded EPA legal health standards, against the national average of 0.5 chemicals. A total of 46 pollutants were detected, compared to the national average of eight. The city water has contained illegal levels of alpha particles, a form of radiation. Similarly, haloacetic acids, from various disinfection byproducts, have been detected.